Analyst expects more candidates to engage in digital campaigning

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — A political analyst expects many candidates will engage more in digital campaigning this year.

While many politicians have resorted to using political ads on television and radio in the past elections, Campaign strategist Malou Tiquia said political ads do not guarantee a win.

"If you go the usual way of ads, you're not gonna win. But if there is something that you tweak on your ad in terms of messaging or it's not too in your face kind of ad, then people will remember it. It turns out, people are more picky this time around," Tiquia said.

Tiquia added that the high rates of political ads are prohibitive.

"I think a lot of people with not much money for TV ads would go digital, hoping that the buzz or the trending issue would be picked by traditional media. If it's picked by traditional media, then you end up in news cycle. If you're in the news cycle, you have a chance to be in the awareness of the voters," Tiquia explained. 

Tiquia said the lack of impact from political ads, plus the rise of social media, is prompting a strategic shift to digital campaigning.

She said this will be evident in the midterm elections.

More candidates are expected to push smartphone ads or ads in the middle of a video uploaded on Facebook or Youtube, or even solicit the support of social media influencers.

"I think there will be some candidates who are equipped with knowledge of who are the influencers in terms of Facebook, Instagram. Twitter is being used by candidates for purposes of media. If they want to break out something, they use Twitter. You want to show a massive rally, they do Twitter in the hope that it lands the news cycle," Tiquia said.


'Alkansiya' campaign

Tiquia, however, explained that in order to win, there is a need to connect the digital campaign to the ground to convert social media following into votes. 

Under the scheme, candidates create a social media page and build a following.

The candidate's team will then identify legitimate voters from fake users or trolls based on the page followers.

The ground team will then conduct a house-to-house campaign to convert the digital support to a vote.

The candidate may also visit an area with a critical number of followers.

"[You get the] data, [match it with the Commission on Elections] database, and geo target. Then give it to your ground team to look for them. In the 90-day campaign period, the math there is where do I go, how many times do I go in that area, and if I have support there. If I don't have support, I skip it," Tiquia said.

However, she pointed out that it is important that a candidate is deemed authentic to convert following into votes.

"If you are following a candidate online, you're a rabid follower. It's either you like the candidate, you like the issues he carries, or you like him personally. If those three meet, and you have a candidate that is being viewed as authentic, then there is a match there. All you have to do is sustain the followership in the 90-day campaign period," she said.

While more than half of Filipinos are offline, Tiquia said it will only take a family member to convince others to vote for a certain candidate.

If done effectively, the "alkansiya" (money box) can help deliver up to 10 million votes.


Debates, news reports

Meanwhile, political analyst Mon Casiple believes that TV debates, forums and news reports will still be the main source of information that can sway votes.

"Gustong makita kasi ng mga tao o marinig directly ang mga kandidato mismo. The candidates will put their best foot forward, but in a setting na debate or show, makikita nila mismo body language," Casiple said.

(Translation: People want to see or hear the candidates directly. The candidates will put their best foot forward but in a setting of debate or show, people will see their body language.)

He said, while social media is also a major source of information, especially for millennials, this information will only have an impact once it airs on mainstream media.

And with no clear issues to swing votes, some candidates may still choose to campaign on guns, goons and gold, Casiple said.